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Gates Ajar – Spring 1993

Sunday, March 28th, 1993

100 Years Ago:  1893 was Ranald’s year of trial …

Ranald MacDonald, then 69 years old, was living as Fort Colville, Washington.  He and his Ontario editor, Malcolm McLeod, had fleshed-out the story of Ranald’s Japan adventure.  During 1891 and 1892, in response to McLeod’s insistent demands for money to publish the book, Ranald pleaded for loans, attempted to mortgage his ranch, and sold subscriptions – desperate efforts to raise a few hundred dollars.  he recorded his failures in a heartbreaking series of letters, now among the McLeod papers in the Provincial Archives at Victoria, B.C. ~~~

” … My cousin, who understands the circumstances, unfortunately has not the available cash …”  ” … Money is very tight, more especially after the fire and rebuilding of Spokane …”   ” … It is impossible to avoid a feeling of disappointment and mortification …”

McLeod, meanwhile, was apparently writing to Ranald about his own financial problems, and Ranald was quick to sympathize.

“Thanks to kind providence we have plenty to eat and the broad Columbia passes our door — no fear of thirst,” Ranald wrote in late 1893.  He tells of banks closing, hard times and his own poor health.  Yet he remains optimistic:  he thinks he can sell 100-150 copies of the book, once it is published.

A month later, Ranald writes again, this time saying he is disheartened and disappointed to learn that, after a year, the Book is no closer to publication.

His natural optimism returned quickly; he approached a local newspaper about publishing his book.  One professional newspaperwoman, excited about the book, offers encouragement but is unable to find a publisher; she did select several chapters to be printed in the Kettle Falls Pioneer beginning in November 1893.  Within a year, the Pioneer had published Ranald’s obituary.  His book was not to see its first publication for more than 30 years; its second, for almost 100.


FOM paid membership grows …

Friends of MacDonald paid membership has climbed 150% during the past year, bringing income g=from membership to within $69 of the budget, according to Chairman Mas Tomita.  Lyn Hadley, who has computerized and reorganized the mailing list for faster access, says that the current roster lists 233 names, including courtesy mailings to Honorary members. Account reports from the Clatsop County Historical Society, of which Friends of MacDonald is a committee, indicate that FOM has almost reached its $1800 budget goals for the 1992-93 budget year and has established a sound financial base of operations.


1994 Turoda tour plans underway …

Plans are moving forward for FOM’s 1994 Centennial Tour to Turoda, Washington, and the grave of Ranald MacDonald, who died August 5, 1894.  Current thinking favors a four-day bus tour in June or October.  it would include Fort Vancouver, museums in Spokane and Colville, Washington, which house MacDonald memorabilia; the house in which MacDonald died, and the Indian cemetery where he lies buried.  Some interest has been expressed in a longer tour, including visits to Forts Kamloops and Langley in British Columbia, Nisquilly in Washington and Astoria  Plans are still open to member opinions and suggestions (see FOM address, pg 4) but should be completed this Spring.


OPB considers feature film …

Oregon Public Broadcasting has tentative plans underway for a documentary film which will focus on the story of Ranald MacDonald.  A draft script has been completed, according to a report to FOM members, and the station is now seeking necessary funding.  Michael McLeod, who wrote the draft script, claims no relationship to Malcolm McLeod, Ranald’s friend and editor.  Mike based the script on Herbert H. Gowen’s Five Foreigners in Japan and Ranald’s Narrative of His Life; FOM reprinted a chapter from the first book and assisted the Oregon historical Society in reprinting of the second.  Any members interested in participating in the project are invited to call or write FOM Chairman Mas Tomita, 3950 NW Aloclek Pl., Hillsboro, OR  97214; 503.645.1118.


A Return To Japan

FOM Chairman Bruce Berney and his son Mark traveled to Japan in late summer of 1992, following the path of Ranald MacDonald from Lahaina in the Hawaiian Islands to Rishiri and Nagasaki.  It was Bruce’s first trip to Japan since he taught in Toyama 30 years ago and he visited friends of that era as well as Friends of MacDonald throughout Japan.

IT WAS A FANTASTIC homecoming.  The generosity of friendly people who welcomed us in Tokyo, Toyama, Nagasaki, Sapporo and Rishiri Island surely sets a new standard for visits here from our Japanese Friends of MacDonald.

We left Seattle on August 15 and spent one night at Lahaina, Maui, Hawaiian Islands, to see the town from which Ranald MacDonald sailed for Japan.  We were thrilled to see two houses which he would have known:  the 1847 Masters’ Reading Room and the 1838 Baldwin Home.  We stayed at the Pioneer Inn, built in 1901 and later expanded.  It is the oldest and cheapest hotel in town, but if you like atmosphere, I recommend it.  Although overrun with tourists, Lahaina is rich in history and should be considered as a destination for FOM members.

We were greeted in Tokyo by FOM/Japan Chairman Mikio Kawasaki [Oregon’s trade representative in Tokyo] and Dr. Masaki Takahashi of Sapporo, and Mrs. Ishihara led us to the gravestone of Moriyama Einosuke, MacDonald’s most famous pupil.  On, then, to Toyama, where we spent three nights with the family of Dr. Atsuro Oshima, my Japanese brother, in whose home I lived 30 years ago.  Mother Oshima is beautiful as ever.  Sister Hiroko came from Nagoya to help, as her English is very good.  Among Toyama highlights:  a visit to the minister of education and new principal of Chubu Hugh School, to whom I told the MacDonald story; a jazz party, at which I met three of my former students; and a folk dance festival in the village of Yatsuo.  It is my pleasure, but not my doing, that Oregon and Toyama are sister cities.  next, FOM enthusiast Yuji Aisaka accompanied us to Osaka and Dr. Morokuma had planned a MacDonald seminar, well-attended.  They also took us to the Nagasaki Prefectural Library for a press conference.  The librarian, Mr. Ishiyama, showed me the valuable manuscript of the official report of MacDonald’s stay at Nagasaki and gave me a photocopy of it for our library.

Then:  sightseeing, including a visit to Deshima, the partially restored site of the Dutch factory from which MacDonald was deported; Daihian, a house at the location of the hermitage where MacDonald was incarcerated, and a memorable lunch at the famous Fukiro restaurant near the shrine which serves the Daihian neighborhood.  Yuji, who joined us for the tour, made sure we arrived at Nagasaki Airport in time for our flight to Sapporo.

We were welcomed to Sapporo by Dr. Takahashi, Dr. Zengoro Terashima of Hokkaido Women’s College, Takahashi Shiroshita of TV Hokkaido, and the bright lights of his camera crew.  The following day, we met with the vice-governor of Hokkaido, the president and executive director of Sapporo International Communication Plaza Foundation, and a reporter for Hokkaido Shimbun Press, lunched with several other FOM enthusiasts, and visited the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, where Hideshi Seki showed us models of boats believed similar to those in which MacDonald traveled the Japanese coast.

Dr. Takahashi and Tak Shiroshita and his TV camera flew with us to Rishiri Island.  Among those who greeted us at the airport:  Hideo Iwashima, my guest last year and the first Rishiri Islander to visit MacDonald’s birthplace.  (It was pointed out that my son mark is the second native Astorian to visit Rishiri – MacDonald being the first.)

Highlights of Rishiri:  visits to the Rishiri and Rishiri-Fuji city halls, to two beaches on which MacDonald may have landed, to the ancient customs house up an ancient stone stairway MacDonald may have climbed, to historic shrines … There was a tour of Rishiri Museum, including an excellent Ranald MacDonald exhibit, and guided by curator Eiji Nishiya, and a tour around the island with Mr. Furukawa and our interpreter, Lisa.  Our lodgings were in a tatami room of the beautiful new Rishiri hotel, especially memorable because of the formal banquet held there in my honor.  The next night, Mr. Iwashima hosted a sukiyaki farewell party in his popular gift shop, the Marine House.  Close friends later took us to the dock for our overnight ferry ride to a port near Sapporo.  We rested the next morning at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Takahashi, who later put us on the flight to Tokyo.  There, an FOM dinner climaxed our adventure and included presentation of a new middle school English text (Chuko Shuppan Press) which devotes five pages to “The First American Teacher”.


Book Presented

A copy of The Attic Letters, Ume Tsuda’s correspondence with her American mother at the turn of the 20th century, has been presented to the Astoria Public library by FOM-Japan member Akiko Ueda, who is one of the editors.  Tsuda (1864-1929) was one of the first five girls sent to study in America by Japan’s Meiji government in its effort to modernize the nation.  The book is available on inter-library loan; call number is 952.03.


Fall Luncheon Proves Success …

Chairman Mas Tomita and Vice Chairman Bruce Berney reported to an October 24 meeting of FOM members on their trips following MacDonald’s path.  Mas recalled his brief but exciting trip to Toroda, where he accompanied a Hokkaido TV team on a visit to the grave of Ranald MacDonald.  Details are told in the Fall 1992 Gates Ajar.  Bruce, whose journey to Japan in late summer is recounted in this issue, told of visiting sites Ranald might have visited and also of his meetings with FOM and other friends.


Author to lecture in Astoria April 17 …

Dr. James P. Ronda, author of Astoria and Empire, will speak at the Astoria public Library at 3 pm Saturday, April 17, discussing “Astoria and the Wilder West”.  The event is sponsored by the Astor Library Friends Association.  Following the lecture, there will be an informal no-host dinner with Dr. Ronda.  For reservations, call Bruce Berney, Astoria, Oregon, Public Library, 503-325-7323.  Dr. Ronda’s book is the first scholarly treatment of the 1811 Astor Expedition, which built the first American settlement on the Northwest coast, since Washington Irving’s Astoria appeared in 1834.  Fort Astor, later Fort George, became the birthplace of Ranald MacDonald in 1824.


Recommended Reading: FOM Chairman Mas Tomita recommends FOM member JoAnn Roe’s new book, The Columbia River: An Historical Travel Guide ($15.95 softcover) to “those interested in Indian heritage.”  For those interested in the MacDonald family’s role in the Northwest, he suggests member Jean Murray Cole’s Exile in the Wilderness ($30; University of Washington Press).


Suggestions from friends …

DAVID H. WALLACE of Coquitlam B.C., who has studied and written about Ranald MacDonald, writes FOM to report that he recently has prepared a typescript of the only known actual Ranald MacDonald manuscript of his Japan visit, now in the Provincial Archives in Victoria, B.C.  it is the basis of McLeod’s text. [A copy of the original is in FOM Archives.]

“It shows MacDonald a little less flowery than McLeod would make him appear and also shows his interest as a British Imperialist … [This poor word is so maligned today – at one time it was quite respectable to be a British Imperialist, especially in Canada,” Wallace writes.]  He also suggests that the “MacDonald country” map printed in last fall’s Gates Ajar be expanded to include the Canadian sites which figured importantly in Ranald’s life.

Author JEAN MURRAY COLE also asks, in connection with the1994 tour, if it could include Fort Langley, where Ranald spent the “most memorable years of his childhood with the family — 1828 to 1833 …”  She mentions also the archeological work around Fort Colville – and is seconded in that interest by DON STERLING, retired editor, who suggests that the tour include information about Indian settlements of the area.

[Diverse member interests may lead to some “tour extensions” for those with more time to travel.]


Gates Ajar ~ Spring 1991

Saturday, April 13th, 1991

After 68 years:  Second Edition of “Narrative” Printed by Oregon Historical Society Press


That jubilant message from Bruce Hamilton, director of the Oregon Historical Society Press, announced the arrival in Portland of the historic Second Edition of Ranald MacDonald: The Narrative of His Life, 1824-1894.

The Friends of MacDonald has been instrumental in making re-publication possible, thanks in large part to FOM Chairman Mas Tomita and Epson Portland Inc., of which Mas is president.

“Enclosed in the first copy of the special edition of Ranald MacDonald’s Narrative,” Hamilton wrote Tomita.  “All of us here at the Society, and the Press, but most especially for my part, wish to express our great and lasting gratitude for your support of this project.  Without your direct support we would not have these books in hand at this time, and we would not be able to provide to so many new persons the opportunity to become acquainted with Ranald MacDonald and his extraordinary life.”

Said Chairman Tomita:  “OHS delivered my copy just in time for Christmas.  It is one of the best Christmas gifts i can imagine.  Epson Portland inc. is glad to have been able to help with this publication, so that many more people can read this remarkable story.”


Ranald’s “Narrative” was first published in 1923, almost 50 years after his death, by the Eastern Washington Historical Society, in a limited edition of 1,000 copies.  The volume includes not only Ranald MacDonald’s adventures in Japan in 1848-49 but also an account of his life before and after his journey and a biographical sketch by the original editors:  Naojiro Murakami (1868-1966), a Commissioner of Historical Compilation for Japan, and William S. Lewis (1876-1941), of the Eastern Washington Historical Society.

The heart of the “Narrative” is Ranald’s memoir of his voyage to Japan in 1848.  Written some 40 years after the adventure, it recounts his successful efforts to enter forbidden territory, his imprisonment, his months  spent teaching English to Japanese scholars and his “rescue”.

(Ranald’s own heartbreaking attempt to publish his book during his lifetime will be among topics discussed during the 1991 FOM Spring Seminar in Astoria.)

Presentation copies of the book are being distributed by FOM and EPI to academic libraries, government leaders and interested groups in the USA, Canada, Japan and Scotland.  The new edition includes a forward by Donald J. Sterling, Jr., FOM member, former OHS president and Oregon Journal editor now with the Portland Oregonian; and an afterward by Jean Murray Cole, FOM member, Canadian writer and author of Exile in the Wilderness, a biography of Ranald’s father, Archibald McDonald.  Mrs. Cole presented a distinguished paper on the family during the 1898 FOM spring seminar.

The new edition was edited by Kim Carlson of the OHS staff.  Designer was George Resch of the OHS staff, and the new-to-all-of-us illustration on the jacket is by Lisa M. Chiba, who created a portrait of Ranald at age 24 from later photos.

Although editors sought to make the new book resemble the original edition as closely as possible, there is one notable graphic addition:  Japanese characters appear on the last page and embossed on the back cover of the new edition, the traditional locations of Japanese book title pages and front covers, respectively.  The characters repeat the book title.

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FUTURE PLANNING – which “road” does FOM take?

FOM member Don Sterling has written some thoughtful and provocative comments which suggest interesting paths for Friends of MacDonald to pursue.  Excerpts from his letter –

“Dear Friends,

. . . It seems to me there are two ways the Friends can go in honoring Ranald MacDonald.  One is to concentrate on his own life and adventures.  This would involve the study not only of his career but of the climate of his times — on the lower Columbia, at the Red River settlements, in Japan, and wherever his travels took him in his later life.  It would involve many interesting cultures and personalities, but in my opinion it is a more limited field than the Friends ought to occupy.

The other approach – which I think is preferable – is to regard MacDonald as the personification of the early contacts between the West and Japan in the mid-19th Century.  Without ever losing sight of MacDonald himself, the Friends gradually could assemble and disseminate information about a wide range of related subjects, such as:

* The Dutch merchants at Nagasaki;

* The visits to Japan of whaling crews and other Westerners;

* Travels abroad by Japanese when such trips were still officially forbidden;

* The interpreters MacDonald taught, and their later activities;

* Events surrounding the arrival of Commodore Perry’s “Black Ships” and the immediate consequences in Japan;

* Townsend Harris’s  experiences as the first American consul in Japan.

* The first visit of Japanese emissaries to the United States.

. . . Whichever course the Friends organization takes, there are a number of things it could do, such as:

* Compile and publish a bibliography of writings about MacDonald and related subjects. (Note: a preliminary draft has been distributed);

* Establish collections of the most important works in several key libraries, such as in Astoria and Portland and in a few of the most appropriate places in Japan;

* Promote communication among the Friends’ membership by publishing not only a newsletter but also a journal of articles on MacDonald-related subjects.  (Any publishing should appear in both English and Japanese);

* Hold occasional dinners and other gatherings where members of the Friends and others interested in MacDonald-related subjects can become acquainted with each other;

* Encourage original studies;

* Establish cooperative relationships with other organizations similarly interested in the period, such as the new North Pacific Studies Center of the Oregon Historical Society;

*Locate, map and mark important sites connected with MacDonald’s life and vision;

* Sponsor tours to relevant historical places in north America and Japan . . . “

~Don Sterling

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